CHARLOTTE – Earlier in the week, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said he was rooting for the 49ers to beat the Packers in the wild card round. Munnerlyn wanted to face the 49ers again.
"Because they don't respect us," Munnerlyn said. "I feel like they don't respect us at all."
In Week 10, the Panthers defeated the 49ers 10-9 at San Francisco. The Carolina defense sacked quarterback Colin Kaepernick six times. Kaepernick threw for 91 yards and tossed one interception. The 49ers – who compiled 151 total yards – were 2-for-13 on third down.
"When we beat those guys the first time they were like, 'We beat ourselves. Carolina didn't do anything. We made mistakes,'" Munnerlyn recalled.
Kaepernick conveyed a similar message on a conference call with the Charlotte media on Wednesday.
"I think it was more of what we did to ourselves," Kaepernick said of that Week 10 defeat. "We didn't execute the way we should have, and I didn't play well."
The Panthers believe they had something to do with the final score.
And that well-earned victory against the defending NFC champions was a hugely significant one, even if there are those who discredit it due to wide receiver Michael Crabtree's absence and tight end Vernon Davis' second-quarter injury.
"At the end of the day it's football. It's always the next man up," Munnerlyn said. "I don't care if this guy was healthy or if this guy didn't play. At the end of the day everybody gets paid in this league to go out there and make plays.
"We went on the road and beat the defending NFC champs. That was a huge win. I don't care how anybody else looks at it. We went in their house and got the win, and it kind of changed our season. That was a key victory."
Head coach Ron Rivera said beating the 49ers "really helped instill a little bit of confidence as to the type of football team we can be."
Defensive end Greg Hardy echoed that sentiment. That win proved the Panthers were ready to compete with the league's top teams. Now they'll compete for a spot in the NFC Championship.
"Not just that we are good and we can win, but we are contenders," Hardy said, referring to what the Week 10 victory meant. "It's not about what is happening outside of this locker room. It's about the Carolina Panthers and what we want to do."